Working in Italy

LEGISLATIVE DECREE n. 286 dated 25 July 1998Consolidated act of provisions concerning regulations on immigration and rules about the conditions of aliens

Citizens from non-EU countries can access the Italian labour market:
  • either directly in Italy, if already have a regular residence permit and they satisfy some other requirements provided for by law;
  • or from abroad, within the framework of entry quotas established annually in accordance with the Flow Decrees (except in certain particular cases of entry outside the quotas). For the relevant procedure see the dedicated page

Recruitment of foreign workers already resident in Italy

In order to work in Italy non-EU citizens must possess a residence permit for employment. Foreign citizens who have a residence permit for: medical care, tourism, religious grounds, business; legal purposes may not work in Italy.

Employers who wish to recruit foreign workers residing legally in Italy must send the local Job Centre (Centro per l'Impiego) within 24 hours of the day prior to the recruitment the "UNILAV" Form for Mandatory Employment Notification.

By sending this form, to be carried out exclusively by telematic means, the employer simultaneously fulfils all the notification obligations: to the National Social Security Institute (INPS), to the National Institute for Insurance against Accidents at Work (INAIL), and other forms of social security, whether substitutive or exclusive, as well as to the Prefecture.

In fact, the form also contains the commitments which the employer is obliged to undertake in accordance with the Consolidated Immigration Act, namely, payment of expenses for a foreigner's possible return to his/her homeland in the event of obligatory repatriation and indication of the foreigner's accommodation.

Also in the case of a domestic employment relationship, the notification sent to INPS is now valid for the purposes of fulfilling the above obligations.

For issuing/renewal of residence permits for employment, foreigners must produce together with their application, a copy of the UNILAV. During this step, the foreign citizen, in possession of the postal receipt certifying their request of renewal, may continue to work.

For further information and for the relevant forms go to the notification obligation service on Clic lavoro

Single residence and work permit

The European Directive 2011/98/EU introduced in all EU Member States a single application procedure for the issuing of a single permit that allows foreign nationals to reside and work in the territory of a Member State, as well as enjoying a set of rights for foreign workers who are legally resident in a Member State similar to those of national workers in all areas relating to employment (working conditions, education and vocational training, social security, etc.).

The Italian legal system was already in line with the requested procedural simplification, and the consequent legislative decree of implementation introduced only some slight changes to the regulatory framework already in force.

Among these was the insertion of the term "single work permit ("perm. unico lavoro") on residence permits which allow to work.

Despite allowing employment, the wording "perm. unico lavoro" is not included: on EU long-term residence permits, on permits issued for humanitarian reasons, refugee status and subsidiary protection status, study, seasonal work, self-employment and for certain special categories for which entry outside the programmed quotas is permitted.

Residence contract

The Residence Contract, as envisaged in Article 5 bis of the Consolidated Law on Immigration and by Article 35 of the Implementing Regulations, is an agreement between an employer and a foreign worker with which the employer shall ensure that the worker has at his/her disposal suitable accommodation and also undertakes to pay travel expenses in the event of a possible expulsion of the worker from the national territory.

The Residence Contract does not replace the employment contract but must be signed so that the residence permit for employment under contract can be issued.

In the case of a first entry into Italy for work, the Residence Contract must necessarily be signed by the parties at the One-Stop Shop for Immigration (Sportello Unico per l'Immigrazione) within 8 days from the entry of the worker in the territory of the State.

Instead, in the case of a new employment relationship, Article 2 of Leg. Dec. no. 40/2014 has provided for a repeal of the provisions of the Implementing Regulation of the Consolidated Act (Art. 13, paragraph 2 bis and art. 36-bis) which demanded that a Residence Contract be signed when renewing the residence permit for employment.

In the case of a new employment relationship, the commitments relating to accommodation and costs of repatriation are assumed through compilation of the appropriate fields of the UNILAV Mandatory Employment Notification form or, for domestic work, notification sent to INPS.

Foreign workers' rights

All legal foreign workers enjoy equal treatment and full equality of rights with respect to Italian workers.

Pursuant to Article 5 paragraph 9 bis of the Consolidated Immigration Act (Legislative Decree no. 286/98), pending the issuing or renewal of a residence permit, the worker can still work, with full social security rights provided that:
  • he/she has requested a residence permit at the One-Stop Shop within 8 days from entry or, in the case of renewal, the request has been submitted before the expiry of the permit;
  • he/she has signed a Residence Contract
  • he/she is in possession of a receipt certifying the successful presentation of the request for the issuing or renewal of a residence permit issued by the competent office.
In general, the holder of a residence permit for employment:
  • is entered automatically in the NHS (Servizio Sanitario Nazionale, SSN);
  • can access the social housing system and the intermediary services for access to rented accommodation and subsidized credit in relation to a first home on equal terms with Italian citizens if he/she is in possession of a residence permit lasting at least two years and is engaged in regular employment or in a self-employed activity (art. 40, paragraph 6 of the Consolidated Act);
  • can access study courses on a par with Italian citizens (except for the recognition of qualifications for the purposes of pursuing studies) including training and retraining courses;
  • may apply for family reunification and the subsequent entry of family members if in possession of a permit lasting more than one year (link to the information on the site of the Ministry of the Interior on reunification);
  • can carry out work under contract different from the one originally authorized (art. 6, parag. 1 Consolidated Act). In this case, the parties will need to sign a new residence contract for employment;
  • can carry out activities of autonomous work, after acquisition of a qualification or authorization and fulfilment of other requirements with a corresponding conversion of the residence permit on expiry;
  • can access the social services (art. 22, parag. 14, Consolidated Act)

Residence permit for foreigner who has lost his job

In the case of dismissal or resignation (which the employer must communicate within 5 days to the One-Stop Shop and the Job Centre) a foreigner has the right to be entered on the mobility lists (with the payment of the relevant allowance) or the population lists kept by Job Centres for the remaining period of their residence permit and in any case, except in the case of residence permits for seasonal work, for a period of not less than one year or the entire period covered by income support (unemployment benefit e.g. mobility allowance) received by the foreign worker, where this is higher.

With Law no.92 of 28 June 2012, a change was made to the permit "while awaiting employment" governed by Art. 22, paragraph 11 of Consolidated Act of Leg. Dec. 286/98 (Consolidated Act on Immigration) and by Art. 37, paragraph 5 of the Pres. Dec. 394/1999 (Implementing Regulation).

The objective of the amendment was to extend beyond six months the residence in Italy of foreign nationals who have lost their jobs, in order to avoid the increasingly frequent situations of irregularities that occur.

On the basis of the amendment introduced by the law of 2012, a foreigner who loses his/her job "can be entered in the employment lists for the period of residual validity of the residence permit, and in any case, except in the case of a residence permit for seasonal work, for a period of not less than one year or for the entire period of duration of the provision of income support perceived by the foreign worker, where this is higher. At the end of the period referred to in the second paragraph, the income requirements referred to in Article 29, paragraph 3, letter b) shall apply."

On the basis of this provision, the renewal of the residence permit for employment is therefore also possible beyond one year if the worker:
  • receives mobility allowance up to the duration of the allowance itself;
  • is part of a family nucleus, already established on the national territory, composed of a person who demonstrates that he/she has sufficient resources as provided for by Art. 29 of the Consolidated Act, such that he/she does not burden the social assistance system of the State during his/her stay (i.e. an income at least equal to the amount of the social allowance, i.e. €5,824.91 per annum).
Circular of the Ministry of the Interior - Department of Public Security - of 3 October 2016 containing clarifications on the residence permit while awaiting employment
This circular recalls that renewal of a residence permit while awaiting employment is also possible beyond one year, since the legislator has not imposed a maximum limit to the possible renewal of an entitlement document conferred previously. It is up to the Police Forces to assess the situation of applicants case by case, paying particular attention to their family ties, the number of years spent in Italy, and any previous criminal convictions of the immigrant. In practice, in assessing the request for a renewal of the residence permit while awaiting employment the police forces must therefore bear in mind the applicant's level of "social inclusion", i.e. integration.

Sanctions for the recruiment of illegal workers

Legislative Decree no. 109 of 16 July 2012 implemented the Community Directive 2009/52/EC aimed at strengthening cooperation between Member States in the fight against illegal immigration, by introducing a prohibition for employers to employ third-country nationals whose residence is illegal, as well as minimum standards relating to sanctions and measures in respect of such employers.

Since this is a ban already provided for by Italian legislation (Article 22, paragraph 12 of Consolidated Immigration Act prescribes that the employment of foreigners whose residence is illegal is punishable with imprisonment from 6 months to 3 years plus a fine of €5,000 for each worker employed), the new legislative decree has only introduced some amendments to the existing regulatory framework.

Tougher sanctions

The measure provides for aggravating circumstances (with sanctions increased by one third to one half) in cases where prohibition of the employment of foreign citizens whose residence is irregular, is characterized by "particular exploitation", i.e.:
  • more than three workers are employed illegally;
  • minors under working age are employed;
  • there are examples of exploitation as described in Article 603 bis of the Penal Code.
In addition to the sanctions already envisaged by the legislation in force an accessory administrative sanction has been introduced, which the court applies upon conviction, namely, the payment of an amount equal to the average cost of repatriating the illegally employed foreigner (criteria for the determination of this cost will be established with a subsequent Inter-Ministerial Decree).

New sanctions for legal persons

If there are circumstances of "particular exploitation", the law also introduces, within the framework of Legislative Decree No. 231 of 2001, a pecuniary administrative sanction (from 100 to 200 quotas, up to a limit of €150,000) for legal persons who have profited through illegal employment of foreign citizens.

No work permits for employers sentenced for illegal employment of foreigners or labour exploitation

The rules have also introduced a prohibition on obtaining work permits for foreign workers for employers who have been convicted in the preceding five years, even if not definitively, for offences linked to labour exploitation or to the illegal employment of foreign citizens and the aiding and abetting of illegal immigration.

Temporary residence permit for workers who report serious abuse in the workplace

In order to foster the exposure of labour exploitation offences, foreigners who report these or cooperate in criminal proceedings instituted against the employer may obtain, on a proposal or with the favourable opinion of the judge, the issuing of a residence permit valid for a period of six months and renewable for one year or for a longer period if required to complete the criminal proceedings.
This residence permit allows employment and is convertible.

In addition a law against the so-called phenomenon of Caporalato (illegal recruitment of agricultural workers) was adopted on the 18th of October 2016. (L. 199/2016)

The measure concerning "Provisions to counter the phenomena of undeclared employment, of exploitative labour in agriculture and the realignment of wages in the agricultural sector", introduced significant changes to the regulatory framework of criminal law. In particular the new wording of Article 603-bis of the Penal Code (Illicit intermediation and labour exploitation), provides a case-based account of crime which excludes violent, threatening or intimidating behaviour in the unlawful conduct of the gangmaster, i.e. those who recruit labour on behalf of third parties, under exploitative conditions, or taking advantage of their state of need.

The new offence of gangmastering, for which arrest in flagrante delicto is mandatory, includes the sanctionability of an employer who uses, hires or employs labour recruited also – but not necessarily through the use of gangmastering – by intermediation activities, exploiting workers and taking advantage of their state of need.

Finally, the DECREE OF THE MINISTRY OF THE INTERIOR AND THE MINISTRY OF LABOUR AND SOCIAL POLICIES OF 10 FEBRUARY 2017, laying down "Determination of procedures and terms to ensure interested foreign nationals have the information referred to in Article 6 paragraph 2 of Directive 2009/52/EC."

This Decree emphasizes in the first place, in Article 1, that the employer who has illicitly employed a foreigner whose residence is illegal, is still required to pay:

a) all the salary in arrears; the level of remuneration equal to the remuneration due on the basis of the national collective agreements relating to the activities carried out for the level and duties indicated, which must not however be less than the monthly amount provided for the social allowance for domestic work relationships and not less than the minimum daily wages reassessed annually by INPS, pursuant to Law no. 389 of 7 December 1989, for other work relationships;

b) an amount equal to the tax and social security contributions that the employer would have to pay in the event of legal employment of the foreigner, including penalties for late payment and the related administrative sanctions.

To ensure that foreign workers recruited illicitly whose residence is illegal have knowledge of these rights and the procedures to assert the rights referred to in Art. 1, lett. a), 1(a), and file a complaint against an employer, a special form has been prepared. This form is given to the person concerned by the staff of the office or agency which has tracked down the foreigner, whether an employee of the Ministry of Labour and Social Policies (e.g., staff employed in inspection activities, or an employee of the National Labour Inspectorate), the Police, or other bodies (e.g., the Harbour Offices – Coast Guard, local police, …).